It is practically impossible to read the newspaper or watch the local television news without learning about a fire that has destroyed a property, maimed someone or even claimed a life. But, for many, something like a fire is simply not personal until it hits close to home, which is exactly what happened to those living in the nearly 400,000 homes across the U.S. who reported fires in 2006. Fire is personal and everyone must realize that they have a personal responsibility to not only prevent fires, but also to be prepared to escape if one should occur.
Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 7-13) is the perfect time to take a few moments to review fire prevention and safety guidelines. For more than 80 years, this awareness campaign has been reminding the public that in many cases personal actions can directly influence fire prevention and safety. This year’s theme focuses on home fire escape planning and urges everyone to “Practice Your Escape Plan!”
What could be more personal than having tragedy strike in a place where many people feel the safest — their home? Being vigilant about fire prevention and safety is important in all areas of life, but being mindful of these issues in the home is especially important. In 2006, 80 percent of the people that died in fires in the U.S. were lost because of home fires, reports the National Fire Protection Association.
A poll conducted for the association shows that only 23 percent of American households have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. Although many households reported having a plan, the majority had not practiced it. Practicing a home fire escape plan is extremely important; if a fire occurs, there may be as few as two minutes to escape. Having an escape plan in place that has been practiced will save precious moments and make it more likely that occupants of a home will be able to get out alive.
Take responsibility by preparing to escape from a home fire before a fire occurs. Develop a plan and practice it. Start by making sure that smoke alarms are installed inside each bedroom and outside each sleeping area on every level of the home. Maintain smoke alarms and test them once a month. Being alerted to a fire is the first step in being able to escape from one.
Create a home fire escape plan that identifies two ways out of each room and a family meeting place outside. Make sure the plan allows for specific needs in the household. Some studies have shown that some children and some adults may not awaken to the sound of a smoke alarm and may need help waking up. Learn about the needs of household members before there is an emergency. Practice the plan at least twice a year.
Be prepared to act: If the smoke alarm sounds, go to the closest exit. If there is smoke on the way out, turn and use the second way out. If exiting through smoke, get low under the smoke on the way to the exit. Move quickly, but stay calm.
Everyone runs the risk of experiencing a fire. News outlets will continue to report on fires, but the next time a fire is in the news, let it serve as a personal reminder that many times fires are preventable and being prepared to escape from one can mean the difference between life and death. Fire is personal.
Judy Comoletti is assistant vice-president of public education for the National Fire Protection Association.Editor’s note: The Tracy Firefighters Association is celebrating Fire Prevention Week with the annual firefighters’ pancake breakfast, from 6 until 11 a.m. Saturday at Station 91, 1701 W. 11th St. To learn more about fire prevention and safety, visit http://www.firepreventionweek.org. This Fire Prevention Week, people are participating in The Great American Fire Drill. Visit http://www.firepreventionweek.org/gafd for more information.